Dear Dessert Oasis,
What’s the deal with Xmas log cakes? Why would anyone want to eat a log?? That’s gotta have more fiber than an econo size jar of Metamucil.
Not a Woodsman
Dear Not a Woodsman,
How fortunate of you to write me today, the Winter Solstice! The Xmas log cake – or rather bûche de Noël or Yule log – dates waaaaay back to the Celtic tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice. A HUGE log – usually from a beech, elm, oak or fruit tree – was burned for the ENTIRE night to bring good luck for the following year’s harvest. And they said predictions could be made from poking the log and reading the embers…..magical!
As hearths got smaller and homes became more refined, smaller logs were used. Eventually, the log left skipped the fireplace altogether and became more of a centerpiece with some little sweets surrounding it on the holiday table ( gotta make due without a 1-800-FLORIST to deliver year round bouquets). In the Victorian Era, the actual wood log was replaced with a cake that resembled a log, because there was no way that a centerpiece tiny log could burn for the whole night and people needed a way to stretch out the celebration. Works for me!
So what is it?? Not playground mulch or a fallen limb stowed away for a rainy day…. Traditionally, a thin Genoese cake is used as the base and rolled up with chocolate, coffee or chestnut buttercream, and then topped with chocolate ganache scored to look like bark. Some meringue or marzipan mushrooms or leaves make the perfect woodsy garnish.
Bakeries in France and Quebec often sell bûches around Christmastime, or you can get cray and try making one yourself!
Have a dessert question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – from funnel cakes to fondue fountains, if it has sugar, I’ve probably eaten it.